US Coins

Q. David Bowers on the secret to hobbyist longevity

The first U.S. Mint director, David Rittenhouse, as painted by Charles Willson Peale in 1796, and obverse of U.S. Mint medal bearing his portrait.

Image of painting courtesy of Q. David Bowers: medal image courtesy of Stack's Bowers Galleries.

The Joys of Collecting column from the Jan. 16, 2017, Weekly issue of Coin World:

Most of us who have given numismatics a chance for several years have stayed on for life. As an example, in 1957, I was one of the founders of the Rittenhouse Society, a group of people interested in numismatic research and writing, named for David Rittenhouse, the first director of the Mint. Over the next few years the society grew. As I write these words not a single one of our early members has ever voluntarily dropped out! Nor have any of the later ones — dozens in all! Some have passed to their eternal reward, but those of us still living still enjoy coins. Why is this?

Let me mention Ken Bressett, a founder. Later he became editor of A Guide Book of United States Coins, a position he retains today. Hardly a week goes by without our exchanging emails. 

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Eric P. Newman, an early mem­ber, is another poster example. Today at the age of 105 he is recognized as one of the great benefactors of our hobby, perhaps the greatest researcher ever in American numismatics.

Today, exploitation is endemic — an absolutely guaranteed way to kill the interest of newcomers. Here are two resolutions for the American Numismatic Association and the Professional Numismatists Guild:

Today there are misleading advertisements for coins on television, in magazines, and many other places. While some of these are not criminal under the law, they certainly are unethical. Ideally, someone selling a coin should describe it no differently than if they were offering it to a friend or relative. Buyers of many promoted items are dead in the water from the outset. They have no chance of success. Once they learn that they have paid too much, out the door they go, never to be heard from again. This need not happen.

Resolved: That the ANA and the PNG each establish an Ethics Committee to discipline or toss out dealers and promoters who mislead buyers.

There are no requirements to call yourself a professional numismatist. It would be ideal if some type of a certification service could be organized, that would involve in-depth training and knowledge — just as Certified Public Accountants have. 

Resolved: The ANA or PNG should set up a challenging and meaningful program to create Certified Professional Numismatists.

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